Last Friday evening as we rolled into the driveway at the farm, I eyed the woodpile, that had been stacked a few months earlier when we cut down two dead elms. There’s an old saying, “Wood warms you twice; once when you cut it and again when you burn it.” It was a chilly evening and we were ready to enjoy the “second warming.”
Salt Fat Acid Heat
That night as we sat by the first fire of the season, slurping the turkey soup we excavated from the bottom of the freezer, Robin turned on a Netflix show she wanted me to watch: Salt Fat Acid Heat. Last year she’d given me the book by Samin Nosrat with the same title.
The 39-year-old Nosrat, an Iranian-American, has released a documentary series about the role the four ingredients play in cooking around the world. In the film, the Jame Beard winning author and former chef at Chez Panisse, takes viewers behind the scenes, where real food is prepared. The four-part episode finds the affable young chef in Italy, Japan, Mexico and back to her place of birth, California.
Follow the Aromas
During her culinary trek, Nosrat creates pasta alongside an Italian nonna, who performs the ancient task with the grace of a ballerina. Samin coos over the velvety taste of raw pork fat as a butcher deftly turns a carcass into kitchen-ready chunks of meat. In Japan, she learns to make salt from seaweed by first retrieving algae from the sea. She does it all with gusto and a reverence for what goes into bringing good food to the table.
No Martha Stewart
Nosrat calls herself a messy cook, given to goofs, as when her Japanese rice balls turned out imperfectly shaped. Then there was the time when the Persian rice she flipped onto a platter lost its edge and had to be reshaped by hand. Martha Stewart, she is not; nor Anthony Bourdain.
Instead, Nosrat reminds me of Nia Vardalos from My Big Fat Greek Wedding. Big personality, no pretense, and open to adventure and learning. She say “Wow!” a lot.
The mother-daughter kitchen scenes in the film give a warm, fuzzy feeling—though I question the realism of such agreeable kitchen sessions between generations.
After an evening of inspiration from Samin and her mother, Robin and I took to the kitchen the next morning to make Italian Minestrone for our dinner guests.
As with most vegetable-based soups, there was a lot of prep work required and doubling the recipe only added to the chop time. Robin and I didn’t agree on what size to cut the vegetables, nor did we see eye to eye on when the noodles should be added. But we both agreed that Samin’s recipe for Lugarian focaccia bread would be fun to make.
Samin Nosrat: “Food is About Bringing People Together.”
Robin and I were bonding so pleasantly—despite our differences in cooking methods—that I neglected an ingredient that I usually add to vegetable soups. Before the lid goes on the soup pot, I toss in a Parmesan rind. I save my cheese rinds, following the advice of Italian cooks, who include them in soups for a flavor boost. In the end, we settled for a jolt of balsamic vinegar to the soup bowl and a sprinkle of grated Parm. Good stuff!
A hearty thanks to Samin and her mom for the kitchen inspiration. Next on our To Cook list: her focaccia bread.
Get to know more about Samin in this delightful Vogue interview.
According to Samin
“[People] may not be alike in a lot of ways, but they can connect, on some level, around a dinner table . . . especially in this moment, which is such a divisive time for humanity. If I could use this show, and use food, to bring pleasure and joy, to show you that we’re not all that different, that humans all want to eat something delicious—that’s great. And that’s something that’s literally baked into each and everyone of us.” ~Samin Nosrat